Team USA has already guaranteed its lowest placing in a major tournament since NBA players were first allowed to participate in 1992 - the U.S. will finish either seventh or eighth at the ongoing FIBA World Cup - and Kobe Bryant believes that lack of domination is the new reality.
"It's not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., it's that the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time," Bryant said, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "And it's to the point now where us in the U.S. are going to win some, we're going lose some. And that's just how it goes."
Bryant didn't fault the players who were ultimately selected to represent the Americans at the World Cup. He recalled being on a loaded U.S. "Redeem Team" at the 2008 Olympics, which needed to hold off a furious rally from Spain in the championship game despite featuring the likes of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
"You have to remember, on the Redeem Team we needed a hell of a fourth quarter to beat Spain," Bryant said. "That was a hell of a team we had. We still needed a real late push to beat Spain in that gold-medal match.
"So I say that to say put the best players that you think are going to make the best U.S. team out on the floor, we are still going to have challenges. It's not going to be a cakewalk. The days of the '92 Barcelona Dream Team are gone. They're over, so it's going to be tough."
The U.S will play Poland on Saturday for seventh place at the World Cup and has already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games by finishing as one of the top two teams from the Americas, along with Argentina, which will face Spain for gold.